Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Perversion of Human Thought Processes

My first word was... GOTO.

I grew up in an age of steam locomotives, cobblestone roads and Z80 processors with the clock speed of a cuckoo watch. The first language I ever learned was BASIC, and GOTO was the first command I came across. I still love the exotic, Japanese elegance of these four letters, and the subtle combination of  simplicity, power and unconditional brutality that is embodied in its application. GOTO does not purport any kind of metaphysical humdrum that is so commonplace in contemporary programming ("functions as first class objects", "syntactic closures" etc.). It's a down-to-the-metal, no-nonsense equivalent to how the processor changes the locus of execution from one portion of the memorized program to an arbitrary other position. GOTO is the teleportation spell of computer programming: when the computer reads a GOTO, it immediately and unconditionally teleports to the location stated after the GOTO (in BASIC, to an arbitrary programming line).